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May 23, 2009
KELLY ELBIN: Tim Simpson, ladies and gentlemen, joining us late in the third round of the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club. Tim is in with a 2-under par 68 which includes a 4-under 32 on the back nine. Tim, got you right back in the hunt. You hit 13 of 14 fairways today, looks like it was just a terrific round of golf here at Canterbury.
TIM SIMPSON: I really hit the ball incredibly tee to green the last few days. I've been doing it week after week, but I haven't been making many putts and the first two days I didn't make a whole lot. And today they just started falling.
Ironically, I made the bogeys at 5 and 6 that were not good shots, they were great shots. I thought I had just kick-ins on both holes and 5, it hit about a foot behind the pin and bounced into the back fringe with no shot.
6, I drove it so far down there that I just had sand wedge up the hill to the green and I hit it just short and right of the pin and sucked it 15 yards back down the fairway. And I made bogey on both of those holes.
When we came off that green I told Butchie, we're playing so solid we can't make mental mistakes. Bot of these, we should have been short on five, played short of the pin and long there at six, just take the bogey out of the equation.
But the greens are real firm. You got to keep the ball below the pins. On the five, six greens out here where you get above the pin you can just flat putt it off the green down into the fairway.
So you can, when you're watching this on TV it looks like sometimes we're hitting mediocre shots, we're 20 feet below the hole. We're hitting right where we're trying to hit it a lot of times.
I've been sick as a dog all week. I got sick last Saturday. They called us off the course in a rain delay and my rain suit was soaked through and then I was perspiring underneath it and we sat in there in the air conditioning waiting on them to make a decision and we were in there several hours and I got sick. And I've been on antibiotics all week.
I feel like I'm turning the corner, but I'm still far from healthy.
But I'm very pleased with the back nine. The funny thing is, this is truly the truth, I told the Golf Channel in an interview just a minute ago, when we made the turn, I told Butchie my caddie, I said, let's shoot 4-under on the back. And I made about a 30-footer at 10 and then that's another shot where I hit a great shot and it just hit, if it hits two feet farther it's right back by the hole, but it hits in an up slope, stops, I got a 30-footer. And then I made about an 8-footer on 11 for birdie. Hit a great shot at 12 and it released to the back of the green.
14, I hit a perfect drive and hit a 9-iron about oh, eight, nine feet below the hole and made that.
15, I put it in the right front bunker there. I had about a 30 yard shot up over the ridge and hit a great shot, almost holed it. It went right over the hole, went about three feet by and I made that one.
And I managed to hang on for dear life the last few. I hit a great shot at the last hole, I misread that putt. I had about probably a 9-footer and I read it straight and I pushed it. And then it just went right. I'm sure it looked like I fell dead on TV. I just misread it. But, you know, if my old shaky hands will hold together tomorrow, you know, I'll, I think I'll have a good tournament.
I've played solid all year and I really don't think I have a lot to show for it. I finished fourth at Newport, but too many 10th, 18th place finishes. And like last week, I finished 18th, but I finished two shots out of fourth. Three shots out of second, I think it was or third.
And so it's just a couple putts here and there. And I've, you know, I've never been, I'm not in the greatest putter of all time book. Never have been in there. But I'm adequate, but, you know, it's not a, you know, Bruce and Joey were both saying some real nice things to me walking up the hill to 18 green and Bruce said, you can win this thing. He said you're playing fantastic. And I said, well if my hands cooperate.
I mean sometimes I just, I don't really have much control over them. As you all know I had brain surgery four years ago and it pretty much remedied the problem in the left hand, I'm having some issues with the right hand now on it, I don't really like to talk about it, I've never mentioned it before, but you know, it's kind of tough for a professional athlete to, most of us are Type A personality, control freak type people and it's tough to have a physical affliction or a disease that you have no control over.
But you know, I'm playing well, I fought hard the last four years to get in position to win. Whether it's this tournament or one down the road, I'm knocking on the door.
And pretty much every tournament on the PGA TOUR at some point I'm on the leaderboard. It may be second round, first round, whatever, I just got to put three rounds together, four rounds together with the putter.
But I like my position and if those old shaky hands stay calm, I'll be okay. But you know what? At our age a lot of guys hands shake. Just mine shake like hell.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.
Q. With what you've been through the last four years, what would a victory mean for you tomorrow?
TIM SIMPSON: They couldn't interview me. I would just ball my eyes out. You know what? There's a magazine that back in my home in Georgia and they want to do a big article on me and the guy's been after me for over a year. And I said, let's just wait. Let's wait until the comeback's complete.
Because, you know, I go from top-10 in the world to a 18 year battle now with Lyme's Disease to essential tremor to brain surgery with the hopes of the possibility of just being able to compete again. Nobody knew, including me, that I would ever be able to compete at the level that I am.
But if you normally think about my MO, I'm fairly determined, I don't give up real easy. But I'm very blessed. I don't do a whole lot of complaining out here. I feel like I've been given a second chance without a doubt. And I think I've been able to help a lot of people.
You know, last month I think was one of the most incredible things in my life getting paired with Michael J. Fox down at the Outback. And his people contacted my people and then contacted or contacted me through the PGA TOUR and he specifically wanted to play with me. And he was familiar with my neurological problems.
And I can honestly say I've never met a person in my whole life that affected me the way he did. It was truly life changing. And you know, the shot of us hugging on the 18th green and Chip Beck, my best friend in college and roommate, he was our other professional partner and Chris Sullivan the founder of Outback Steakhouses, I'm balling my eyes out you just couldn't see behind the sunglasses, Chip is crying his eyes out, everyone was crying. It's just unbelievable.
So day before yesterday I'm driving back from the golf course to the hotel and the cell phone rings. Tim, it's Mike. What are you doing? I said, coming back from the golf course. He said, how did you play? I said, oh, I played pretty good. He said, hey, I'm coming to Des Moines, he says, they want me to come play in the pro-am. And I didn't want to impose on you. And I said, Mike, stop right there. I said if you play with anybody else I'm going to be offended. He said, that's what I wanted to hear.
So next Wednesday we get to play together again and I'm thrilled to death. I'm a lot more excited about that than I am tomorrow. I wish each and everyone of y'all could have experienced what I experienced. I mean this is just the most incredible human being you've ever seen. The epitome of somebody who won't give up.
Q. Tim, you were mentioning about, if my putting holds up. It seems though that there are a lot of guys struggling with putting, whether they're good putters, great putters, or just average putters. It seems more that tee to green might play a factor into who wins this tournament.
TIM SIMPSON: Oh, without a doubt. If you can just stay away from the 3-putt, just position the ball. I've driven it beautifully, but I'm ironing it pretty darn good too. It's just all in, it's a Major Championship. It's putting it in the right place on the greens. It's like Augusta. And you put it in the wrong place, you're much better off 25 feet away below the pin uphill than you are six or eight feet in the wrong place side hill, downhill.
Some of the greens have so much movement on them, like number 8 there's only one place they put the pin. It's been front right all three days. Right over the bunker. But it makes us look bad on TV when you putt it off the damn green, you know, but you just, it's just physics, there ain't enough friction to override the slope and the ball just keeps going, you know. And I he went to the University of Georgia I can't spell physics.
Q. You mentioned that playing with Michael the first time is a life changing experience. Was he just that he gave you the inspiration when you were sort of lagging or?
TIM SIMPSON: No, I wasn't lagging. It was just I've never met such a genuine person, such a determined person. If you saw him sitting here right now, I mean you would tear up. I mean we're, it's just unbelievable. And yet he's light hearted.
We did a press conference before we played and there's four times this many people out there and Michael says, I chose to take up golf over 40, with Parkinson's. Am I crazy or not?
And then everybody starts laughing and he says, you know, every lesson I take, he said, the pro tells me be still over the ball. Well, you know, he can't. He's moving all over.
So it's just -- I can't really explain it other than it was just such a phenomenal inspiration. And we have become close friends, we talk on the phone, I called him last week, he said, I'm at my daughter's track meet. She's running the intermediate high hurdles. And I said, how is she doing? He says, she's getting ready to run right now.
I mean it's just, it really impacted my life tremendously. You know, to see a person that is working so hard when for stem cell and gene therapy, and we have really been misled horribly. If you read his book, it, we have been misled bad. And I was a big George Bush fan and he nailed the coffin shut.
And Michael's like Christopher Reeve was. He's looking down the road. The time's running out on him, but he knows that there's so many diseases that he can help. This, obviously, I'm off track here, but he's just one in a billion.
Q. Could you talk about the three finishing holes and how demanding they are and if you are coming to those three finishing holes needing a birdie, can you, is there a way to attack them?
TIM SIMPSON: I tell you what, I'll take par right now. Right now. You just can't, I mean you've got to hit a perfect drive, a perfect second shot and a perfect third shot at 16. You got to put it in the right place to make the putt.
It's like today, I hit 3-wood off the tee, because yesterday I bogeyed 15 and 16, and I hit a good drive there yesterday that hung up in the rough behind the trees and I was dead. So I played with Gene Jones the first two days and Gene hit 3-wood off the tee and I thought, well, you know, it is wider back there. It narrows up the farther you go down.
And I drove it good, and then I cut a 5-wood up there and I was about three feet in the rough and I was standing on my nose downhill, right where Norman was yesterday. And had no chance of getting it close.
Then 17, you know, I said -- the hole in you know one was up there, we were coming up 16 when the guy made the hole-in-one. But it's just a brutal hole. If you get the damn thing on the green you're not guaranteed a 3-putt. You know. It's just nasty.
Then 18 is just, it's just simple. You got to drive it like me and Joey did, just absolutely dead perfect. And we both knocked the flag out today. But it's a true, two shot hole. If you drive it down the left side at 18 and catch it, you're blocked out. You got to hit a big sweeping hook. That's what I had to do yesterday.
They're just tough as hell. This is not tournament to come to if you're looking for somebody to make ten birdies in a round. I mean it's just, they're hard to come by out there. Just kind of, just plod along. Play smart. Don't cut your own throat.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, Tim's played the last three holes in even par all three days.
Q. It would seem that the golfer of your caliber trying to putt with shaky hands, it's going to be a nearly impossible situation. How do you calm them or do you?
TIM SIMPSON: I just, I work on different things. Breathing. Positive talk. It affects all of us. Bernhard's fought the yips for 30 years, O'Meara had them. It's tough. But I've just flat got a neurological disease. You know, I do pretty good for the most part and I felt really good, I told Butch down on the 18 fairway, why the hell can't we just keep going? Play tomorrow's round and just keep on going. Because I was just so focused and so into the zone of what I was doing.
And it's kind of hard to turn that on and off like a light switch sometimes.
Q. Is there a medication of some kind that helps you?
TIM SIMPSON: Yeah but I've had the brain surgery, I don't take any medicine any more. I've just got this box here (Indicating). I'm not ashamed of the thing. It's a brain generator. I guess you could technically call it a pace maker, I call it a generator. I got a wire that goes up my neck and underneath my scalp, this little bump here is a plastic cap that covers the hole where it goes down into my brain.
But I'm not going to roll over dead for them tomorrow, I don't think. I hope anyway. If I putt good we'll have fun.
Q. Did all this start with the Lyme's Disease?
TIM SIMPSON: Yeah, I guess, you know, it's a $10 million question. Did the Lyme's Disease cause it or was it coincidental and genetic. Because both of my grandparents had it. They're both deceased. And I have an older sister that has it.
My neurologist tends to think it was genetic, but I guess once I get to meet God one day then I'll know.
Q. Everything you just talked about today, the very moving account and that playing golf with Michael and having that emotional moment and trying to still have a great career in golf when, quite frankly, out there on the course everybody likes your story but they don't care, they want to win, so do you. Put that in context what you've done the first three rounds to get your self in solid position to win a Major. Would you call this a great course?
TIM SIMPSON: Oh, hell, yeah, it's a great golf course.
Q. What's it feel like to have gone through the struggle, hit the shots, and no matter what happens the rest of the day you're going to be in position to win tomorrow. How does that feel?
TIM SIMPSON: You know, to say I'm shocked or surprised to be here I wouldn't be honest. I've been playing solid. But there's going to be 12 or 15 guys that can win. Nobody's running off and hiding. I mean, I think it's, you know, if you're a couple over, 1- or 2-over, you're still not out of this thing by any stretch of the imagination.
And I just got to go out and keep the nerves at bay the first few holes and just go out and play. And most people wouldn't admit that, but it's just a fact of life with me. It's something that I struggle with controlling and once I get by the first hole or two, then I usually rock and roll. It's just something that it's just the way I'm wired. Screwed up.
Q. You are wired.
TIM SIMPSON: Literally. Yeah. Literally.
Q. Is the right hand part of the neurological situation and how long have you been dealing with that?
TIM SIMPSON: I don't know. I think my neurologist is real -- I think he's real guarded in admitting it because he's a golfer and he wants me to do good as bad as I do. And I think he doesn't me to know if there's a problem.
I feel it. It shakes. But I had it adjusted this week up here. My doctor was in Seoul, Korea, in fact I was going to drive back to Georgia from Birmingham get it adjusted and come up here, but he was out of the country.
So I came up here and I called him and I called him like three times before I got him and he always calls me right back, and I got him finally and he had literally just got off a plane from Seoul and he said, look, I know all the people at the Cleveland clinic and I can hook you up. And he hooked me up with Doctor Ben Walter, who left the clinic now and is at the University Hospital.
And Ben called me right back within an hour and said, when can you get in? And I said, well I'm going to play a practice in the morning, can I come tomorrow afternoon. And so he spent a solid two hours with me and tweaked it and it's better.
Q. Is that like adjusting the --
TIM SIMPSON: Yes, they have to adjust it from time to time. It's been actually quite a long time since it's been adjusted, probably a year and a half. So my hand and arm were shaking the last couple of weeks.
Q. What do you mean by adjust? What did do they do?
TIM SIMPSON: They put a magnet in here. I can't be around any kind of magnets. Even like a chiropractor or magnets on a wrist band thing. But they put a magnet here, it's attached to a little cord and it goes to like a Palm Pilot made by Medtronics. And first they get a reading of where you are and then they punch in three numbers and then I just feel the electricity shoot down my left leg and down my left arm.
And typically what we do is they will have me take a Styrofoam cup and hold it, and mine's positional, and when it's off -- I'm going to make it do it -- it's not doing it, because I turn my wrist, it will get right there and it will just start going like that. And he'll say, stop right there. And I'll just hold it and they will adjust it and it goes (Indicating) and it's high tech stuff. It's high tech for a red neck from Georgia.
Q. Is it electrical impulses then that come from that?
TIM SIMPSON: Yes, sir. Yeah. They use it for a lot of different things now. They used it for so many different kind of surgeries now. I was the first person in the world that they ever used it on for an essential tremor. And this surgery was developed and this implant was developed for severe Parkinson's. And they applied it to me and it worked.
And you know, they did a piece on me in Outback on Michael and I down there, you know, and this lady was talking about how miraculous the surgery was. I mean, I went from out of the game and just shaking, I mean I couldn't play, you know, at near this level, to I made two million dollars the last three years.
And I feel like I've never, I still haven't played near up to my potential. I mean that's truly a miracle. Whether it's me or your son or your sister, I mean that's why I don't whine and complain a whole lot.
Q. When was the implant done?
TIM SIMPSON: The implant was done March 1, 2005.
Q. Where at?
TIM SIMPSON: MCG. Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
Q. And did you know when you came here that this was kind of a major medical clinic?
TIM SIMPSON: Oh, yeah, even those rednecks from Georgia have heard of the Cleveland clinic. I have heard of Harvard too.
No, we, no, y'all are obviously, your doctors up here are renown and the doctor that did my surgery is retired now, but he was widely considered the best in the world. And now I'm told that Tiger Woods did the surgeries here at the Cleveland clinic. I don't know his name, but he's here.
Anyway, Doctor Walters has been great this week. He's followed me the first two days, had to miss today, but he'll be out tomorrow and he's watching me close, making sure I'm okay.
Q. Does he play?
TIM SIMPSON: No, he does not. He knows nothing about golf.
Q. Did you think you'll talk to Michael tonight?
TIM SIMPSON: I don't know. If he calls. I won't bother him probably. If I play good tomorrow I'll probably call him.
KELLY ELBIN: Tim Simpson, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts